Swapping out Huawei tech quicker than UK telecom companies claim, says US official

Cyber security expert Robert Strayer said the comments were often financially motivated

Huawei's revenue forecasts have suffered from the US ban.
Huawei's revenue forecasts have suffered from the US ban.

UK telecom companies exaggerate the time it would take to switch out Huawei’s controversial 5G system, a senior US cyber security official has said.

Technology advances meant companies were replacing and updating their various components on a regular basis, underlining the ease of swapping technologies said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Cyber and International Communications Robert Strayer.

Huawei has been banned from building 5G wireless networks in the US, which could enable everything from autonomous cars to robots doing surgeries, over fears it could be used as a vehicle for Chinese espionage.

Mr Strayer said there was "so much more software running" on 5G networks, heightening risk factors.

US officials have been trying to convince the UK to follow their lead. Speaking in London, Mr Strayer insisted the move to clamp down on Huawei was not motivated in any way by the Chinese-US trade war.

“There’s been a lot of concerns raised by some of the telecom carriers in the United Kingdom and others that there will be substantial delays or a loss of the best types of technology if those carriers do not go with Huawei,” he told an event organised by the Henry Jackson Society think tank in London’s parliament.

Asked if such claims were inaccurate, he told the audience at the very least they’re “exaggerated.”

“There is a huge financial incentive on their part to make that kind of statement in their estimation,” Mr Strayer argued. He said some telecom companies may have as much as 70 per cent of one company’s technology, leading them to puff up the cost of swapping for another.

Denmark’s biggest phone company TDC A/S moved other to Ericsson in March from Huawei after six years. The US’s four largest telecom providers are only using three vendors: Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.

And Mr Strayer insisted “there is a way to migrate away from an untrusted vendor to trusted vendors over a period of years. There’s always a way.’”

Companies were always updating and replacing their technologies, he said.

“Whatever it is, even aside from 4G or 5G, the switching, the networking, the routing, the different components get better over time as the engineering gets better.”

Both Vodafone and EE have delayed selling Huawei 5G handsets, urging for more clarity from the UK government over the problem.

Published: June 19, 2019 10:07 PM


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